Are online courses good enough to change careers?

Are online courses good enough to change careers?


This is the start of a new blog category on tmdc today. This is the first post in a section where I’ll share my e-learning learnings on my journey towards becoming an on-line entrepreneur.

Shall I start learning on-line? Is it feasible at all to acquire the required knowledge in on-line courses? Can I change careers with the help of on-line courses? If questions like these keep you awake at night, read on.

Are you looking for a change?

Let’s start at the beginning. I started online courses because I moved away from my corporate career and started my own on-line venture. It just came naturally to look for web knowledge on the web.

You may have different reasons. Some people just want to add new skills that they wanna use in their current jobs, some university students think that on-line education will make them more competitive and some others have landed in a career crisis where they need to make a move asap.

For whatever reason you are here, one thing is clear. Online education has definitely become a place to change careers. Many of us have started the transition years ago and now it’s time to share the takeaways and see how well online courses are doing in the career game.

It DOES matter where you’re coming from

If you have previous corporate experience or work experience, chances are high that you also took part in corporate training programs. If you have work experience you have an idea of different activities and departments of a company, and this may give you a good idea of the new skills you should be looking for.

If you don’t have previous work experience or you are transitioning into a whole new industry, your situation is different. If you are just starting out you may be wondering now where to start the whole journey.

I took about a 100 on-line courses in the past 2 years as I’ve been building my on-line business. I realized that the key information most people are missing when taking on-line courses is where to go next, or how to organize the knowledge they have or they are about to get.

I believe that the success of your online studies greatly depends on your ability to put together the right course portfolio or right curriculum.

In order to give you a better understanding let’s take my case.

Career change is more than just courses, it’s a course journey

I used to work in a large corporation before I started my independent on-line journey. I had 15 years of professional experience in various fields and a masters degree in computer science from 1998. I worked in an executive role, I had solid knowledge of most corporate functions like, marketing, sales, finance, IT, fields service and so on.

This implies, that I already had a model in my head, how my ideal company should work and what are the skills I should be looking for.

I took all the best from my previous experience and I’m fixing all the things I wanna do better than the companies that I know.

I’ve been fond of the web economy since the early beginning, and I lived close to it also in the past. I don’t find it hard at all to replace the old reflexes with the new ones. It liberates me, to tell you the truth.

For a guy like me, I believe it totally makes sense to start on-line studies on their own.

Why is that? Because I can put together my own curriculum. I can create a training plan that will propel me towards a new and happy life.

I’ve done this before too, I used to train and mentor consultants in the past. I can bootstrap my own mentoring.

What about people without a corporate background? Will they be successful?

If you are just starting out to chase your dreams as an employee, a university student, or you are trying to move away from a career crisis, the question is this:

If you have the opportunity today to change your life, are on-line courses the place to go?

I’ve seen success stories on the internet of people who made it. Fact is, that there are tens of thousands of people taking online courses every day. Will they all make it?

Why curriculum is important

I think if you are looking for the answer for the above questions, my key learning is this one.

Most of the on-line courses I took gave me much more value than the courses I took in the classroom before.

On-line courses are made by people who have done it before. And they show you exactly how you can do it, too. Bullshit does not sell. Course reviews and ratings will uncover any treachery.

You need to be careful, though. You’ll have to connect the dots yourself.

You need to know which areas to cover in which order and what depth in the different fields.

Currently I am not aware of any on-line support that will provide a full curriculum for startup entrepreneurs or online career builders, organizing online courses in a meaningful way.

Why is this important? Because courses cost time and money. Especially if you do your homework and you try using your new skills in your own business.

Maybe you start out in the wrong order putting your SEO first while totally ignoring your Facebook following. Or you don’t invest into advertising early enough, or invest into the wrong advertising.

I mentioned before that on-line courses are much better than most classroom courses I took before. While this is true, I must tell you, that it’s crucial that you take the right courses.

Some courses give really low value. Most of the time I can tell by the ratings or the sample videos. I got into a situation when I asked for a full refund only once.

Picking the wrong course or the right courses but at the wrong time may cost you a lot of great opportunities and you’ll lose time and money. It may take months of trying before you realize that you picked the wrong SEO course, for example. This one was one of my biggest mistakes.

Working out your curriculum

If you’re watching the news of the on-line learning arena, you see a good number of new players appearing on the market. There are websites like lynda.com, Treehouse and Udemy, just to name a few, who offer short on-line courses for people who want to build new skills.

Messaging varies, but the key selling point these companies would emphasize is, that you are in the right place, if you wanna change careers. And it’s never been easier to change careers.

Well, I somewhat disagree. It’s never been easy to change careers and it never will be. These courses will give you a great support and save you time and money, but the amount of new knowledge and experience you’ll need to acquire remains the same or will increase.

Therefore it’s essential to work on your on-line training plan.

Some websites already offer packages that contain several courses in a bundle. Like the nano degrees on Udacity. Udacity’s nano degrees (there are 6 right now) , take about six months to complete and cover a broader field of software development or data science. There are nano degrees like front-end development, iOS development, Android and so on.

These are one step closer to what I think shall bring real success. They not only provide a 3-5 hours video material, they also provide a series of lectures throughout 6 months with project assignments, reviews and feedback.

Are these good enough to change careers? Well, for a someone starting a business, these courses will cover only a small portion of the requirements.

People who are looking for a career in those fields offered in the degree bundles, this is a very good option. Especially if there are such big names behind the courses like GitHub, At&t or Google.

What is the risk of a nano degree?

This is a good time to start a career in software development. There is a global shortage of developers. If you wanna get a job in a brick and mortar company, please note that the big names are still looking for people with higher education degrees from brick and mortar schools.

If you’d prefer an online developer career, your chances are much higher. Just keep one thing in mind. On-line learning is available globally. Your clients and competitors will most likely not be the people from your city, country or even continent.

While this is a great opportunity for people living in developing countries, there is something that people in developed countries often don’t realize.

You are directly competing for a job with people who took the same course on-line, but have much lower salary expectations because they come from a country where living requirements are much different.

This may lead to an erosion of prices in your niche. Especially if that niche is web development in general. If you wanna make good money, and get more work, you need to go beyond the basics and specialize. Your learning won’t stop after the first course. And not even after your first nano degree.

And now you’ll be left with the same question? What course to take next?

Wrap up

Now that we analyzed the challenges of changing careers on-line, it’s time for me to write what I have in mind. I set out to create a series of blog posts and create a training plan for an on-line entrepreneur.

I will cover marketing, social media, SEO, programming, startup engineering, design, graphic design and other areas that are essential in the web world.

I hope you found this article useful, please feel free to share your own experience and thoughts about the topic, I am really eager to see your opinion.